Looking Ahead: OHS in 2016

Looking Ahead: OHS in 2016

ROBIN JONES, president of the South African Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Saiosh) gives us his three wishes for occupational health and safety in 2016

For our Institute, 2015 was a splendid year. We either broke records (passed the 5 500 member mark), or set new records: we achieved an average of 175 new members per month _ in July we peaked at 248 new members for the month!

More packages were added to benefit members: access to updates on any one of 256 legislative acts, and a 50-percent discount if a member took out a subscription on a specific Act.

Looking ahead, my three wishes for Occupational health and safety (OHS) in 2016 are:

1. When investigating accidents or incidents, I want the senior managers to have an open mind, with no preconceived ideas about who was wrong. I would like them to focus on fact finding instead of fault finding. Rather than point fingers, use the opportunity to develop positive steps to prevent a recurrence of the incident.

2. If this has not already been done, place the status level of the OHS function on the same level as the production, engineering, quality control and finance departments. Don’t put occupational safety and health in a silo by itself. The entire purpose of the OHS Act is to prevent harm occurring in the workplace and/or associated disruptions to the smooth running of the business.

3. When I read safety journals from the United Kingdom, they contain articles which indicate where an accident occurred. The article includes the name of the company, the contravention of the law, as well as the consequences of such action, for example: a fine, or criminal prosecution. I would like the Department of Labour to publish the same type of information, so that the South African public is aware of all the major accidents that have occurred.

My purpose for such a request is to create a learning opportunity for industries across the board. If an offence occurred and it was due to a lack of explaining a workman’s scope of authority, for example, then industry in general should be asking the question: “Have we covered that eventuality extensively in our organisation?”

Saiosh is currently looking into extending the benefits that are available to our members. One of these benefits is an insurance policy. Among the categories of cover is a public liability policy for our members, particularly in the consulting fields.           

Planning for the Annual OHS Conference, to be held on May 24 and 25 at Gallagher Estate, is progressing smoothly. We have already lined up our 11 speakers (including international speakers).

There will be more Continuing Professional Development (CPD) workshops around the country this year. Currently we have Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban on our tour route. These workshops are free for members (visitors have to pay). We can also consider holding workshops in other areas where we have more than 50 members.

I know that it is exciting when the balance sheet shows a profit at the end of a financial year. At that time, the shareholders, the board and the top management rejoice. However, that excitement comes nowhere near the excitement felt when an OHS practitioner finds that one or more corrective actions have prevented, or eliminated, the potential for an accident in a workplace.

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